Silence is the easiest and the most dangerous redoubt of politicians who believe only in leading from the rear.
When an act of violence, against person or property, is committed in the name of a political ideology. And leaders do not condemn immediately.
When leaders do not separate the violent from the non-violent protester. When they allow conflation between those who want to build, and those who want merely to destroy.
When leaders find it all too convenient to bend to the wind, and fail to take positions they know to be right, simply because those decisions might be unpopular.
When leaders turn a blind eye to their own hypocrisy, because it suits their electoral chances.
I believe in the will of the majority. I also believe in the rights of the minority. I choose to listen to those advancing both doctrines only when they expressly subscribe to non-violent implementation. And implementation which is devoid of poisonous emotion.
The fact is there was a Civil War in the US. One side won. The other side lost. A safe and functioning democratic union requires that one side forgives and the other demonstrates magnanimity.
The winners cannot expect a true peace if they simply deny any and all aspects of the cultural heritage and identity of the losers.
The losers cannot expect magnanimity if they do not accept that some part of what was defeated was defeated because it represented an anathema to those who won.
And then the entire edifice becomes a clusterfuck because of cowardice.
Leaders among the ‘winners’ choose not to protect legitimate cultural heritage. Because it is easier simply to conflate it with all the garbage we know is no longer legitimate.
Leaders among the ‘losers,’ in turn, contribute to the clusterfuck by also choosing to conflate legitimate heritage with symbology they know is offensive, simply to get a raise out of their former opponents.
Leaders on both sides demonstrate innate hypocrisy by demanding identity protection for one section of society, but not for all of the different groupings.
The Nazi logo was originally a sign of abundance and peace. No-one would pretend that now. Much the same is true of the Confederate flag. Whatever the flag may have represented before the Civil War, it has now been too associated with hate for it to be seen as a symbol of anything else. That is the reality now.
I argued this when I wrote to the Mayor of Atlanta in 1996. And stated (as did many others) that the flag of the State of Georgia, containing as it still did at that point the Confederate flag, simply could not be flown alongside the flag of the Olympic movement. That was the reality then.
Yet, we cannot just wipe out the cultural heritage of an entire region of the United States, simply because we do not like one symbol. It is not politic. It is not realistic. It is not magnanimous. And it will only lead to more hate and violence.
Equally, we cannot persist in (literally) wrapping the entirety of that cultural heritage in a symbol which, at the very least, is an abhorrence to large parts of the remainder of the US. Realistically, we have to accept that the flag must be denied, in order to salvage the remainder of the cultural heritage.
There are legitimate fears on all sides of the racial divide in the US. To believe otherwise is to bury our heads in the sand. We cannot adequately address those fears unless and until we separate them from violence. Unless and until our leaders find the courage to call out, condemn and, if necessary, prosecute every single act of violence perpetrated by thugs on either side of the racial divide. Whether that act of violence is against a person or property.
I know something about dealing with black-clad thugs from my days with Occupy. It is pretty much an advertisement for people who have no interest in understanding, reaching out or finding solutions. It is the uniform of those who want to rip society apart, so that they may feel free to live without accountability to their community.
It is time for all our political leaders to distinguish between legitimate cultural identity and symbols of hatred. Between legitimate arguments and hateful polemic. Between legitimate protest and incitement to violence. And between those who want to build and those who want only to destroy.
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